Romans 8:2-4 (NKJV) 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
The book of Romans is full of the important themes of Christianity. It speaks of the pervasive sin nature of man. It speaks of redemption, sanctification and righteousness. All these things make up the story of grace. To understand grace, we must understand the themes of Romans.
Romans 7 describes the everyday challenge for every believer living in the world. How can I live what I know is true when I am surrounded by temptation and corruption? The law comes from God so to blame the law cannot be the solution. The flesh of the individual is the real problem.
What exactly is the flesh in the life of a Christian? The flesh is the combination of soul and body under the influence of spiritual death and temptation. A true Christian has been born again on the inside (John 3:1-9.) That is why Christianity is not just a religion. It is an inward change that makes a person something they were not before it happened.
2 Corinthians 5:17-18 (NKJV) 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 18 Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation,
One interpretation of the word “creation” in this verse is something that never existed before. The salvation experience does not “renovate” the person. It creates a new person. The moment after we receive Jesus as the Lord and Savior of our lives, we are completely changed. This is one of the most powerful and least understood truths of the bible.
The problem we face is that this transformation does not occur to the outward man. It happens in that part which was created in the image and likeness of God. It is real, and it is what makes us fit to spend eternity in heaven. That is the work of Grace in salvation. Nothing else is required. Once we are born again, heaven is our eternal home. If we are not born again we cannot spend eternity in heaven. It is just that simple.
John 3:3 (NKJV) 3 Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (Underline is mine)
The new birth really happened to everyone who genuinely received Jesus. What about the outside? What about your thinking? What about how you have been trained to act? What about the appetites you have grown to need? None of these things are rooted in the part of us that was born again.
Before salvation we were “by nature children of wrath.”
Ephesians 2:1-3 (NKJV) 1 And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.
The wording of this verse is clear concerning what a person is before salvation. You may not want to accept that this verse could be talking about you. When I told my mother I got “saved”, she said, “From what?” I was the good kid. I did not need saving. However, no matter how “good our behavior was we were what Paul says we were. We may not have looked like it to others, but we were all those things on the inside.
After salvation the inside changes. I am not Ephesians 2 any longer. I am 2 Corinthians 5:17. Nevertheless, for all my life before salvation I was Ephesians 2. To one degree or another I “conducted myself in the lusts of my flesh.” I was trained by a world system that was founded on people who were Ephesians 2 by nature. I was born again very young. My parents were not. They spent more than 50 years as Ephesians 2 people living in an Ephesians 2 world.
They were not programed to think or act according to the salvation that came to them according to 2 Corinthians 5. They were graphic examples of the people Paul is talking about in Romans 7. They were born again but they never fully overcame the flesh.
So here is the dilemma. I am born again. I am going to heaven, but I struggle to live as I should. Why? I struggle because I live in a body that was raised and have lived according to the conditions of Ephesians 2. I continue to live in a society that was created and remains influenced by Ephesians 2. When my soul, my intellect, emotions and will come under the influence of that world, I tend to revert to what I have always known.
When my will yields to the temptation to follow my old life and the Ephesians 2 world I live in, I have a problem. I am born again. My inner man delights after the truth and purity in the Law of God. However, my outward man wants to yield to the old law that used to govern me. That is the law of Ephesians 2.
That old law is not always overtly evil. It is always familiar. It conforms to the world around me. It is easier to go that way than to resist. In many ways it feels right. It always was right before. However, now we know the law of God. We are born again. Something real has happened inside. We are no longer children of the devil. We have the law of God written on our hearts. Ephesians 2 is no longer our nature.
The flesh wants to follow what is familiar, easy and even pleasant. The inner man wants to follow the nature and the ways of God. The flesh is tempted, and the temptation seems reasonable and even right. The spirit, which is born again, knows the temptation is wrong. The spirit knows to live by the flesh brings death. Which one will win in my life today? That is Romans 7.
What is the solution. Paul tells us in the first verse of Romans 8:1.
Romans 8:1 (NKJV) 1 There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.
The key is not only that there is no condemnation if we are in Christ. The key is that we walk in the spirit and not according to the flesh. That is not a statement of law or even discipline alone. It is a way to live that will unlock the real power of grace to the believer after salvation.
Galatians 5:16-17 make this very clear.
Galatians 5:16-17 (NKJV) 16 I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.
If I can walk in the spirit I will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh. The battle is won. I no longer fight my flesh, I live in control of it. My inner man, the part that was born again, is in control. I do naturally what I should do. The solution is not to control the flesh either by law or by my will power. The solution is to walk in the spirit. What does that mean, and how do we do it? More to come.